Diabetic-friendly food at Japanese festivals

My husband and I very recently attended two Japanese matsuri (or festival): the Ome City Matsuri and the Tamagawa Genryuu Matsuri in Kosuge, Yamanashi Prefecture.

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Like most, if not all, festivals in Japan, food and drinks played a central role in both festivals. After all, what good is a festival if it keeps you starving and thirsty?

Only very picky eaters will have nothing to eat or drink at a matsuri. But what about a diabetic who wants to keep his blood glucose under control, will he have to starve, bring his own food, or settle for a high BG? Nope. A diabetic will have no difficulty finding food that will not send his BG skyrocketing, unless he does not eat meat of any kind.

It is true that most festival food stalls sell high-carb offerings, such as:

  • yaki soba (noodles)
  • grilled corn
  • okonomiyaki (a kind of pancake with various toppings)
  • takoyaki (ball-shaped batter with octopus)
  • choco banana (chocolate-covered banana)
  • cotton candy
  • jaga bata (potatoes with butter)
  • kakigori (shaved ice with colored syrup)
  • crepe
  • taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry with some kind of sweet filling)
  • candy apples, strawberries and other fruits

I ignore them. Well, almost all of them. I sometimes enjoy a small portion of okonomiyaki (that is, I eat the toppings and little of the pancake, and I ask the vendor to put very little sauce), or one or two takoyaki balls. So, what do I eat? Well, plenty.

Japanese festivals are very kind to meat lovers. Among the choices you have are:

  • yakitori (grilled chicken parts on stick)
  • ikayaki (grilled squid)
  • karaage (fried chicken)
  • grilled fish
  • hotateyaki (scallops grilled in butter)
  • sausages and frankfurters

There’s kebab which seems to have increased in popularity over these past few years (I leave the bread untouched). If, like me, you like soup, you can find (during the colder seasons) oden (which consists of various ingredients in soy-flavored broth) and miso tonjiru (miso soup with pork and vegetables). If you are not squirmish squeamish, you can try buta motsu nikomi (simmered pork innards or intestines and vegetables), which I thoroughly enjoyed at the Kosuge festival.

If you are vegetarian, you can always find cucumbers which are widely sold, especially in summer.

See? Japanese festivals offer a lot of delicious diabetic-friendly food. I have never ever left a Japanese festival hungry.

What about drinks? Water and an assortment of teas (by this, I mean unsweetened teas) are always on sale. But alcoholic drinks are a different matter. Beer, in almost limitless supply, is the most popular alcoholic beverage in festivals. You can also find sake but, like beer, it is not low carb. The possible low carb choices are happoshu, a low malt beer, and chu hi, a combination of fizzy lemon or grapefruit juice and shochu. But be careful with chu hi because, depending on which brand and type you pick up, it may not be as low in carbohydrates as you would like it to be. As someone who does not add sugar to her beverages, I find chu hi too sweet for my taste. Do not expect to find whiskey, gin, vodka or good quality shochu. I know because I looked. As I happen not to enjoy happoshu or chu hi, if I want to imbibe, I settle for sake, which I drink slowly and alternate with water or tea. I get the buzz without getting smashed.

So, the next time you stumble upon a Japanese festival, do not despair when you see all the flour- and sugar-based offerings, because you know you will find something suitable.

Enjoy your matsuri.

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